ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In this millennium year, a new Bible was created
by the Arion Press in San Francisco. This Bible is unique because this
place is unique. It's one of the last shops in the world where all the
work on a book is done under one roof. Press director Andrew Hoyem designed
and printed the Bible here, and his colleagues cast the type, made the
covers, and bound the work by hand. These artisans and their tools have
been designated an endangered cultural treasure by the National Trust
for Historic preservation.
ANDREW HOYEM: Someone referred to me as a condor recently. (Laughter)
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You need to be saved. You're an endangered species?
ANDREW HOYEM: Right.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You're one of the last people, probably, who knows
how to do this.
ANDREW HOYEM: Yes, and it's very important that we perpetuate the skills,
just as we save the equipment and carry it on into the future.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You've done this against great obstacles. You
probably could have been a much wealthier man if you'd done something
different. Why have you done this all these years?
ANDREW HOYEM: The process of printing by letter press achieves an aesthetic
effect that can't be duplicated by other faster, more modern, more efficient
methods. When type bites into paper, it creates a three-dimensional
effect and there is something tactile about it, as well as aesthetically
pleasing, when it is done well.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The all-important type for Hoyem's books is made
on 100-year-old machines by Lewis Mitchell, who is a master at turning
molten lead into letters. Then, in the printing, each piece of inked
type stands upright and actually indents the paper.
ANDREW HOYEM: The three-dimensional effect that i referred to is really
apparent when you get up close to this book.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The book is "Moby Dick," which Arion
Press published in 1979 with illustrations by the artist Barry Moser.
Some critics consider it one of the two or three most beautiful books
of the 20th century.
ANDREW HOYEM: You're seeing the type and the impression on both sides
of the sheet of paper, and it creates a kind of shadow or halo effect,
very much akin to inscriptional lettering in stone.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: When you look at it, why is it a fully finished
work of art for you?
ANDREW HOYEM: Well, first i had to establish the text pages, that the
line length was correct for this type size, that the line wasn't too
long for readability, that the margins of the book were such that you
had a slightly elevated feeling when looking at the text block. Having
established that basic text page, it was possible then to go on to other
embellishments, such as the illustrations, which are beautifully done,
cut as wood engravings.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: From the beginning, did you know you wanted to
make your art take this form?
ANDREW HOYEM: I started out by having a combined interest in literature
and visual arts, and enjoyed drawing as well as writing, poetry, and
those two interests really came to one in the making of books by hand.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The press has published 60 books since it opened
in 1974, including a 1988 edition of James Joyce's "Ulysses,"
with etchings by the artist Robert Motherwell; Charles Dickens' "A
Christmas Carol," with drawings by Ida Applebroog; and Jean Toomer's
"Cane," a novel of the Harlem Renaissance, with woodcuts by
the sculptor Martin Puryear.
ANDREW HOYEM: This one I like very much. They're printed on Japanese
handmade paper, which is different from the paper in the book. It's
very thin and translucent, and, in fact, in open areas of the woodblock
you can actually see some of the text from the page behind.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How much are you selling this for?
ANDREW HOYEM: This is $750. It's a limited edition of 400 copies.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But the new Bible is the press's largest, most
demanding project so far. It weighs 35 pounds, is bound in leather or
cloth, and in some editions the initial letters are illuminated. The
translation was sponsored by the National Council of Churches. 400 copies
have been printed, and they're selling for $7,000 to $11,000, depending
on the binding and whether the letters are illuminated.
ANDREW HOYEM: The Bible is an extraordinarily complicated and difficult
book to produce. So i found myself having to solve a whole array of
typographic problems as we went through the book.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Give us an example of how you solved some of the
ANDREW HOYEM: To me, the most important resolution that had to be made
at the outset was as to how to set the basic text page and also what
type to choose. And I chose Romulus. It's very readable and open, and
yet beautiful without calling too much attention to itself. I wanted
a book that would stand up for perhaps hundreds of years, not just as
a physical object that was so well made and paper that would resist
disintegration, but a look that would be of our time and still would
look fresh in the future.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How long did it take you from the time you first
decided to do the Bible until right now, when you're... right now you're
just finishing the binding of it, right?
ANDREW HOYEM: I began in earnest about ten years ago. Production began
two to three years ago. It took us 18 months to do the press work.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And I've read that it's physically very difficult.
Explain what's physical about it. You're in really good shape because
of this, right?
ANDREW HOYEM: Two pages of type, when we were printing two pages at
a time on our press, together with the steel frame and the wood furniture
that is used to lock the type into place so it could be put into the
press weighs over 100 pounds. So it took two of us to lift that into
the press, in and out, in and out.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think that this is the last large Bible
of this sort to be printed with hot metal type? In other words, is this
the end of the Gutenberg era?
ANDREW HOYEM: I think there's a good probability of that. We were fortunate
in having at our disposal all the tools and the people with the skills
to make a Bible from lead type, lead alloy type printed by letter press
at this time. And I couldn't be sure that would be the case in the future.
So it was sort of now or never.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Varied skills have been involved in creating the
Bible, and Arion has some of the most experienced people in the business.
Lewis Mitchell has worked in typecasting for more than half a century.
ANDREW HOYEM: If you'll notice here the shine.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Yeah.
ANDREW HOYEM: When you don't see a shine, then you stop, and then you
get worried, because you know something is wrong.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Book-binder Leif Erlandsson learned his trade
LEIF ERLANDSSON: I'm skiving the labels for the cloth edition of the
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What's the word you used, "skiving"?
LEIF ERLANDSSON: Skiving, uh-huh, trimming the edge so that when the
label is put onto the book back, it doesn't have a thick bulk.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: It's just a little thinner right here.
LEIF ERLANDSSON: Yeah.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How long have you been doing this?
LEIF ERLANDSSON: It's probably around 40 years.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Peggy Gotthold has been a binder for 17 years.
PEGGY GOTTHOLD: This actually sews the top of the book together, as
well as having all the sewing along the spine. So it's a way of strengthening
the whole structure.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Have you found other people you can train to do
PEGGY GOTTHOLD: The process of training takes time. Some people can't
stick with it, and that's a problematic thing. Once they find what's
involved... It's exacting and repetitious-- that combination is difficult
for some people.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The devotion to detail in this place is almost
palpable, and the difficulty in finding other people with that devotion
is part of what makes Arion endangered. Every process is done with loving
care, including proofreading.
ANDREW HOYEM: As often as i can, I am the proofreader, reading aloud.
It gives me a better sense of what we're dealing with. So i read all
of "Cane" aloud.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I asked Hoyem to read a poem from "Cane."
ANDREW HOYEM: The poem is entitled "Reapers." "Black
reapers, with the sound of steel on stones, are sharpening scythes.
I see them place the hones in their hip pockets, as a thing that's done,
and start their silent swinging, one by one. Black horses drive a mower
through the weeds, and there a field rat startled, squealing, bleeds,
his belly close to ground. I see the blade, bloodstained, continue cutting
weeds and shade."
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: This old- fashioned place almost failed earlier
this year because of skyrocketing rent and threatened eviction. But
an outpouring of support from San Franciscans postponed the eviction
and will help Arion move to new space in the Presidio next month. Hoyem
and his staff are already planning their next projects, but work on
the Bible will continue. Only ten are finished. That leaves 390 still
to be done.
MARGARET WARNER: The Arion Press Bible is the subject of an exhibition
at the Gallery of the American Bible Society Library in New York City,
through January 5.